After twenty years of researching ecosystems Luke’s biodiversity expert keeps on digging into the overall processes that make or break our environment. Raisa Mäkipää wears many hats in her line of work and enjoys doing it.
In the past… I’ve always been fascinated about how ecosystems work, and the multiple services they provide. I’ve been studying these subjects for more than 20 years. There never was a singular thing that pushed me towards researching biodiversity and ecosystem processes. My research career has been more like a chain of small steps, small revelations, that has taken my work forward.
To me, a career as a researcher isn’t about big moments or great successes. It’s more about building on top of the work and methods of other researchers and being content with what I can bring to the table. I’m very happy if I can come up with a piece that can help others finish a bigger puzzle. If someone else feels they can reach the stars partly thanks to my work… wow, that would be great!
At the moment… I’m studying the functions of fungi that inhabit decomposing trees. Because there are less and less decomposing trees in Finnish forests, forest biodiversity has decreased. This affects all the species that depend on decomposed trees for nutrition or habitat.
Although people are aware of all this, there’s still not much research on the ongoing processes in these decomposed trees: How the loss of species influences on decomposition? What factors affect how fast wood decomposes? Where does the nitrogen that is essential to the process come from? I’m interested in the overall ecosystem processes and how biodiversity and environmental factors affect them.
Mitigating climate change is one of the most important issues right now and in the future.
In addition to biodiversity issues, I’m studying the effects of climate change and how to mitigate it. Actually I have quite a lot going on. My research touches for example on how tree species and afforestation affect carbon sinks. I have different roles in different research projects: in some I work as a manager, in others as a researcher. If we went through every single project I’m involved in we’d be here for days!
In the future… the world has to learn how to utilise natural resources in an ecologically and economically sustainable way. Mitigating climate change is one of the most important issues right now and in the future. The way we do things now will not take us very far. Climate change is such a big problem that no amount of work and research will suffice to solve it. There will always be room for new solutions and ideas.
My goal is to work on solutions that improve the sustainable use of natural resources in the field of agriculture and forestry. For example, I want to find out what we can do in forests and fields to reduce carbon emissions, and how we can maintain biodiversity in them.
Two things have driven me thus far and will continue to do so in the future: curiosity and cooperating with fellow researchers. Working and succeeding together is very rewarding. I’m looking forward to interacting with other researchers on new research topics and widening my networks in the future.